Equal Voice Welcomes Electoral Reform Committee's Recommendations Focused on Electing More Women to House of Commons

All-Party Committee recommendation to financially reward parties who field higher proportion of women on the ballot is positive and tangible mechanism to increase women’s representation

OTTAWA, December 2, 2016 – Equal Voice is encouraged by the report of the Special Committee on Elector Reform in which there were clear recommendations to tackle the long-standing problem of women’s under-representation in the House of Commons.  However, even if implemented, there remains much work to be done to rapidly increase the proportion of women elected to Parliament.

Equal Voice supports the recommendation by the Committee that the Canada Elections Act be amended to create a financial incentive for political parties to run more women candidates.  If implemented, it would serve as a positive and concrete mechanism to motivate parties to move towards parity in their nominations.

“As a national, multi-partisan organization, Equal Voice is pleased to see a cross partisan report that includes a tangible mechanism to ensure the nomination and election of more women,” said Nancy Peckford , Executive Director of Equal Voice.  “There is no evidence that voters discriminate against women at the ballot box. We are confident that proactive measures which aim to increase the number of female federal candidates will lead to a notable increase in women in the House of Commons.” 

Equal Voice also applauds the report’s focus on addressing some of the obstacles women face to winning nominations, even if recruited. These include the often high financial cost of fighting a nomination battle without the support of robust and well- resourced networks. Men have traditionally had better access to these networks, while not having to endure the disproportionate burden of childcare.  Nor are they required to make the necessary investments in hair and wardrobe, which are more onerous for women candidates. 

New Electoral System

While the committee did not recommend a single electoral system to replace the current first-past-the-post (FPTP), it did recommend that Canadians be offered the opportunity to choose (or not) a form of proportional representation in a nation-wide referendum.

Advocates for proportional representation frequently point to the expected benefits for women’s political representation.  The assumption is often made that proportional systems automatically elect more women to politics, but Equal Voice believes this claim is oversimplified

In its submission to the committee, Equal Voice’s senior researcher, Dr. Grace Lore, encouraged the committee to consider how the mechanics of any system affect women in Canadian politics”:

‘Proportional representation’ is not one thing and neither is ‘women’s political representation’.  The details of any system will have important consequences on both the number of women elected and what women are able to do once they are elected.”

Equal Voice encourages the committee, Minister Monsef, and all Members of the House of Commons to closely examine how any adjustments to the electoral system will affect women’s representation, whatever the system is.  The actual mechanics of a proportional system, should Canadians ever choose one, are equally, if not more important, than the principle of proportionality.

Women’s Participation in the Consultation Process

It is clear that this process is far from over.  The Liberal members of the Committee offered a dissenting minority report where they suggested that their colleagues were moving too quickly and without sufficient evidence or public support.  Moreover, Minister Monsef’s consultation remains ongoing with hundreds of thousands of invitations to an electronic survey still making their way to Canadian households.

Much has been made of the effect of electoral systems on women’s representation in our House of Commons, but Equal Voice remains concerned about women’s participation in the consultation process itself.  As the discussion continues, the voices of women must be brought to the fore.

  • Less than one-third of witnesses to the Electoral Reform Committee were women, and women were even more poorly represented among those that were invited to present their individual expert opinions.
  • Fewer than one in five individuals who submitted written comments were women as were just one in three of those who responded to the electronic survey.

In other words, women were no better represented in this process than they are in the House of Commons.  As this consultation continues, we can and must do better.

In the 2015 election, just one-third of candidates were women and nearly a third of ridings (97) had no women on the ballot for the major three parties.  In 57 ridings, there were no women on the ballot for the dominant five (including the Green and the Bloc). With only 26% women in the House of Commons, the status quo is unacceptable.

-30-

Contacts:

Nancy Peckford: npeckford@equalvoice.ca 613.854-9793;

Susan King: susan@equalvoice.ca 613 724 1518